title in ancient Greek is O e dipus
Tyranno s ; in Latin O e dipus Re x .
“ Tyrant” is the closest English translation of
the Greek word for “ one who rules without
second” , usually elected, sometimes taking
Some texts use the word “ king” or even the
Latin equivalent “ re x ” , but there is no mention
of succession or king or queen in the play.
The Dreadful Prophecy
The ancient city of
Thebes in Greece was
ruled, at one time, by Laius, son of Labdacus
Laius and his wife Jocasta were childless.
Wanting children, Laius visited the shrine of
the Oracle at Delphi.
The oracle was the human spokesperson of the
Greek god Apollo.
Oracles were women who lived in seclusion in
“I Got 99 Problems…”
The oracle indicated to Laius and Jocasta that being
childless was a blessing in disguise.
Laius was warned by the oracle that any child born to
Jocasta would become Laius’ murderer.
Out of fear, Laius exiled his wife without
Her vexation at such rejection spurred a plot in her
She seduced her husband through drink and
conceived a son.
Panicked, according to one version of
story, Laius forcibly removes the baby from
Jocasta’ s arms, pierces the child’ s feet near the
tendon and inserts a metal pin to bind the
baby’ s feet together.
Laius carries the injured baby to Mount
Cithaeron, between the cities of Corinth and
Thebes, and leaves him with a shepherd with
instructions to abandon the baby-- to die.
New Lease on Life
Unable to carry out the heartless command, the
shepherd instead hands the deformed child
over to a second shepherd from Corinth.
The baby, named Oedipus (swollen footed) by
the shepherd, is safe… for now.
Corinth : Home
Polybus is the king/tyrant of
Corinth. His wife
is Merope . They are childless.
The shepherd who received baby Oedipus on
Mt. Cithaeron informs Polybus of the child.
Oedipus has a home.
Orphaned, Part II
After 17 or 18 years, a Corinthian youth taunts
the startled Oedipus: “ You don’ t resemble
either of your parents” (Polybus and Merope).
Only the Oracle at Delphi can clear up this
The Oracle’ s response to Oedipus: “ A
way fro m
the shrine , wre tch! Yo u will kill yo ur fathe r
and marry yo ur mo the r!”
Because he loves his
(adopted) parents so much,
young Oedipus quickly
departs from Corinth and
heads in the direction of
On the treacherous and
narrow mountain road,
several men, one of them a
king, in an oncoming
chariot demand the right of
It’s my way or the
The king orders the young Oedipus to “ make
way for his betters.”
“ I know no betters except the gods and my
own parents,” replied the headstrong Oedipus.
One thing leads to
The king moves to strike young
Oedipus with his scepter.
In a rage, Oedipus, with his
walking stick, strikes the older
king and flings him to the road.
Oedipus proceeds to kill all of the
men in the group except for one.
The older king was Laius. :O
Prior to his death at the hands of
Laius had been on a second journey to the
Oracle at Delphi.
This time, Laius was seeking advice to end the
plague of The Sphinx against Thebes.
The Sphinx, a hideous combination of lion,
serpent, eagle and woman, forbade anyone
from entering Thebes unless the traveler
correctly answered a riddle.
The Sphinx’s Riddle
Using a riddle taught to her by the Three
Muses, the Sphinx would ask each traveler on
the way to Thebes:
“ What being, with only one voice, has
sometimes two feet, sometimes three,
sometimes four, and is weakest when it
has the most?”
The Riddle’s Answer
Oedipus, arriving in Thebes shortly after he
unknowingly killed his natural father,
encounters the Sphinx and the riddle and the
prospect of death if he answers incorrectly.
Some say he answered by pronouncing his
name, which the Sphinx misheard:
o i dipus
(“ I, man” ),
which just so happens to be the right answer.
The success of
young Oedipus circulated
through Thebes, a city now freed of the terror
that was once at its doorstep.
The grateful Thebans select Oedipus to replace
Laius, who everyone heard had died at the
hands of highwaymen, as king/tyrant.
Oedipus accepts the title and accepts Jocasta
as his wife as well—Jocasta, the former wife
of Laius, the mother of….
If it’s not one thing, it’s
Oedipus is proclaimed the new king/tyrant of
Thebes, and immediately following:
“ A terrible plague descends on the
bewildered city of Thebes;
Animals mysteriously die;
Grain withers in the field;
No live births occur.”
Here we go again…
The Theban elders
beg Oedipus for help
to save their city.
The play by